Hoppa yfir valmynd
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Address to the Althing

Address to the Althing, April 23, 1996
H.E. Mr. Halldór Ásgrímsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade
(Unofficial translation)


Table of Contents

1. The Nordic Countries and Neighbouring Regions
2. Iceland and European Co-operation
3. The EEA and Developments in the EU
4. Political Co-operation in the EEA
5. Schengen
6. Enlargement of the EU
7. The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU
8. The Western European Union
9. NATO and Security in Europe
10. The Partnership for Peace and the Enlargement of NATO
11. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
12. The Council of Europe
13. Russia
14. Peacekeeping and Economic Reconstruction in Bosnia
15. The Defence Co-operation and Relations with the United States
16. The Trans-Atlantic Initiative of the US and the EU
17. The World Trade Organisation
18. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - OECD
19. Export Trade
20. Measures to Promote Exports
21. Icelandic Investment abroad
22. The Law of the Sea
23. Fisheries negotiations
24. Iceland in the United Nations
25. Environment and Energy
26. United Nations Reforms
27. Development
28. Human Rights
29. Disarmament
30. Culture and Information


Mr. President,

The simple world view of the Cold War has given way to a new and much more complicated scenario. Under these radically altered circumstances, Iceland's foreign policy must be comprehensive, which means that there can be no division between economic, social, environmental and security matters, to give an example. Thus, foreign affairs cannot be separated from domestic matters and they have become one of the most important elements of achieving our goals as an independent nation.

Iceland's welfare is now, as never before, dependent upon activity in the international environment. In most areas of our society, international relations have become an influential factor and it is therefore important for the government to set a good example. It not only a necessity but a desirable objective in itself to pursue a vigorous and responsible foreign policy which is oriented toward prosperity and security for the Icelandic nation and at the same time contributes to reform and development throughout the world. In this way we can seek out new opportunities, widen our horizons and enhance the reputation of Iceland and Icelanders the world over.

The countries of Europe and North America are bound together by close ties and their interests are therefore closely connected. These close ties, however, have not prevented disputes and even conflicts. The long-term relations of these friendly nations have not suffered damage, however, as their relations are based on a common heritage. The nations of our region are engaged in extensive and close co-operation, both bilateral and within the framework of multinational organisations. Great changes are in progress in this region and Iceland is an active participant in them; indeed, the new circumstances and developments have a direct impact on our situation.

1. The Nordic Countries and Neighbouring Regions

Everyone who is familiar with Nordic co-operation will know that there is no reason for apprehension about the future of such co-operation despite the membership of three Nordic countries in the European Union. However, the new circumstances have forced us to adapt to a new reality. Co-operation which cannot be adapted is not worth much. It was time, and it is time now, to reassess the activities of various Nordic organisations which have been operating almost without change from the beginning.

Nordic co-operation has undergone revision before. Foreign affairs, which are a new element, are playing an increasingly important role in the traditional Nordic co-operation, which continues in full force. The Nordic Council has increasingly concerned itself with relations with neighbouring countries, and we should utilise this development to our own benefit. It is natural for relations with the European Union to be at the centre of the foreign affairs co-operation of the Nordic States.

Various problems in our neighbourhood are of the nature that they cannot be solved except through the co-operation of many countries. Nordic co-operation in the neighbouring areas has therefore become extremely important, especially with regard to the preservation of stability and progress in our neighbouring countries, not least the Baltic States. In the Council of the Baltic Sea States work is in progress on the improvement of the trade environment of the new independent states and support for the development of democratic institutions and human rights. A special human rights commissioner of the council, who is available for consultation by the citizens of these states, recently visited Iceland and had the opportunity to consult with various people in this country. A study is now under way to examine how Iceland can contribute to the development of the rule of law and democracy in these countries.

In the last few years increased attention has been focused on the Northern Region. The Arctic Region encompasses some of the largest areas of the Earth which are still relatively untouched by Man. It contains rich resources which can be utilised on the principles of sustainable development. Icelanders have long been proud of their unpolluted environment, fresh air and clean sea, but now these assets can no longer be taken for granted. Barely perceptible and persistent pollution can cause great and permanent damage to our fish stocks. In the Nordic Council, the Barents Council, the co-operation on the establishment of an Arctic Council and the Council of the Baltic Sea States, special emphasis is being placed on the preservation of the atmosphere and the sea. The circumpolar states, including Russia and the United States, are now participating fully in the preparation for the establishment of the Arctic Council.

2. Iceland and European Co-operation

When considering the integration process in Europe and the progress of the Intergovernmental Conference, Icelanders must assess their own situation realistically and without prejudice. The nation-state and its interests must be the premise for any activities in an international context. It is difficult to imagine how we can preserve our national identity and protect our country's interests if the nation-state is not the basic unit in international co-operation. Supranational power may be necessary in certain areas, but the principle must be for international problems to be solved through the co-operation of individual nation-states in the forum of international organisations or through discussions between the states in question. The developments in Europe over the past years have shown us beyond question that the concept of the nation-state is not a thing of the past. This is and will remain the basic position of Iceland.

Iceland has secured its chief trade interests in Europe through participation in the Agreement on the European Economic Area and through free-trade agreements concluded by EFTA with the Central and Eastern European States. In addition, there are agreements with Israel and Turkey. Preparations are also being made in EFTA for free-trade agreements with Malta and Cyprus.

Iceland's involvement with the EU has been developing rapidly over the past years in keeping with the increased relations within the Union. After the two Nordic States took the plunge, most of our most important allies, trading partners and kinsmen are part of the EU. Thus, our relations with the Union have never been closer. We have been successful in reacting to the developments in Europe in such a way that our interests are secured. But the developments continue, which means that we must assess our position in Europe with an open mind and realistically in light of the changes taking place at any given time. Our basic policy is to secure the long-term security and trade interests of Iceland.

3. The EEA and Developments in the EU

Following the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden to the EU, the EEA agreement no longer has the political attraction for the EU as it had previously. It is therefore more important now than ever to keep reminding political leaders in the capitals of EU states and the Commission in Brussels of the agreement. This is especially important as regards the state holding the EU Presidency at each time. For this reason, I have had meetings with the Foreign Minister of Italy last November, with the Commissioners in January and the Foreign Minister of Ireland last month.

Iceland will need to monitor developments in the EU carefully. This applies not least to the Union's fisheries policy. It should come as no surprise that I have encountered some lack of understanding of Iceland's special situation in fisheries among the EU political leaders and commissioners I have spoken to. Until we have some indications of an acceptable solution as regards our vital interests, our position regarding membership of the EU will remain unchanged.

Membership of the EU has not been excluded on the part of Iceland, but such membership cannot take place until our most vital interests have been secured, especially our fisheries interests. There are no indications in sight of an acceptable solution and while this remains the case negotiations on membership are pointless. The position of the Government therefore remains unchanged. Developments will continue to be monitored, and efforts will continue to win support for Iceland's views. Thus, application for membership is not on the agenda of the Government, but efforts will continue to secure co-operation with the EU on the basis of the Agreement on the European Economic Area.

It is clear that the European Union is now trying to reinforce its infrastructure in preparation for enlargement. The member states are now deliberating how far to go in sharing sovereignty in areas other than the economy and trade. The Intergovernmental Conference will address important issues, such as veto powers, voting powers, membership of the Commission, the role of national parliaments the role of the European Parliament and the arrangement of the presidency, but at the same time attempts will be made to make the work of the Union more transparent and accessible to ordinary citizens and to address the issues of unemployment, social matters, judicial and police matters.

The European Monetary Union will radically change the economy of Europe. On Iceland's initiative it has been decided that the EFTA Economic Committee will conduct an intensive study of the effect of a common currency on the economic and trade environment of the EFTA states.

4. Political Co-operation in the EEA

The political co-operation within the EEA is now becoming more concrete. Consultation meetings of ministers, officials and experts have been held and emphasis will be placed on the continuation and intensification of their consultation. Iceland has also been a party to declarations and positions of the European Union an foreign policy in the international forum. Work is in progress on the organisation of a meeting of the prime ministers of the EFTA States with the Prime Minister of the country holding the presidency of the EU and the chairman of the Commission.

As Chairman of the EFTA states in the EEA, I have placed great emphasis on reinforcing the political consultation and making it possible for the EFTA states to follow the process of the Intergovernmental Conference closely and allowing them to express their point of view. These requests have met with understanding and the Commission has already held a special briefing session with the representatives of the EFTA states and such sessions will be held on a monthly basis during the Intergovernmental Conference. The current holder of the EU presidency, Italy, also has plans to hold a special briefing session with the EFTA-states next June 11. I shall also use every opportunity to discuss Iceland's position directly with my colleagues in the Member States.

5. Schengen

Concurrently with the work of strengthening political ties with the EU, Iceland is participating in diverse other co-operation of the European states, e.g. in police work and border control. Work is in progress on the association of all the Nordic countries in the Schengen Agreement on border control. The main purpose of the agreement is to discontinue personal surveillance on the borders of the countries participating in the co-operation and ensure the free movement of people between them. This is accompanied by stricter surveillance of people entering the region over so-called external borders. Considerable changes will have to be made in the facilities at Leif Eiríksson air terminal in order to ensure normal transport of passengers through Keflavík Airport and continued visits by tourists. Participation in the Schengen agreement will have a significant effect on our position with respect to our neighbour countries in Europe.

6. Enlargement of the EU

The enlargement of the European Union is consistent with its historical development. The process of enlargement will not be halted, nor will it be turned around. The European Union is now preparing for the prospective entry of new Member States in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe. The enlargement of the European Union is bound to contribute still further to peace, prosperity, security and stability on the continent, and we are bound to support this initiative to the extent that we can since it will affect our position in the Europe of the future. It is important for the European Union to continue to play a leading role in the promotion of global free trade.

7. The Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU

At the Intergovernmental Conference, the Member States will attempt to formulate more precisely the arrangements for common decision making on the Common Foreign and Security Policy. There is considerable disagreement, but in all probability the Intergovernmental Conference will manage to strengthen the existing co-operation. It is not improbable, for example, that proposals to set up a joint staff to organise the foreign policy co-operation of the EU will be adopted, and the same applies to the nomination of a special spokesman for the EU Council in foreign affairs.

8. The Western European Union

There are plans for the full integration of the Western European Union with the EU and for full co-operation within the EU on Security and Defence. At a ministerial meeting of the WEU in Madrid in December, I emphasised our position that the WEU should remain an independent organisation where we can follow proceedings and participate in the formulation and development of security in Europe. It is not appropriate for Iceland to consider full membership of the Union while its future status has not been defined.

The effectiveness of the WEU depends on an agreement being reached with NATO on Combined Joint Task Forces. After France announced increased participation in the defence and military activities of NATO, there appear to be greater prospects of an agreement onCJTF. There are hopes that it may be possible to conclude an agreement at the Spring meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin next June.

9. NATO and Security in Europe

The area of foreign affairs which is changing most rapidly is security and defence. States in our region of the world have developed institutions and organisations designed to promote a lasting peace and security throughout the continent. One of the main tasks has been to grant the states of Central and Eastern Europe a suitable place in these institutions and contribute thereby to their democratic and economic development. There is no need for new institutions, but it is necessary to strengthen and co-ordinate the work of the existing institutions since, in their diversity, they provide all the countries of Europe with an opportunity to participate in the security co-operation of the continent. Through such efforts it will be possible to avert the risk of disagreements causing a new division of Europe.

NATO will play a key role in the organisation of security in our region of the world. The transatlantic link is and will remain an inseparable part of European security, as we have seen in Bosnia. Furthermore, NATO has over the past years managed to reorganise its activities with good results. Initiatives such as the North Atlantic Co-operation Council and the Partnership for Peace have proved their importance.

10. The Partnership for Peace and the Enlargement of NATO

It is important to strengthen NATO's Partnership for Peace programmes with countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the coming years. It is natural for Iceland to participate actively in this work and contribute to security on the continent. It has therefore been decided to stage exercises in this country next year within the framework of the Partnership. The emphasis will be on preparations for natural disasters, as Icelanders have some experience in this area that could benefit other nations and we also have much to learn.

Despite the importance of PfP it is clear that for many of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe this will not suffice and they will seek full membership of NATO. The enlargement of NATO must proceed in a decisive, but above all a reasoned manner. It must neither reduce the combined defense capacity of the Alliance, nor be the cause of a new division of Europe. It must take into account the security interests of many countries, both those who become members soon and those who require a longer period of adjustment or are not seeking membership at all. The purpose of enlargement, in combination with the work of The North Atlantic Co-operation Council, PfP and the special co-operation and consultation with Russia, is above all to enhance security in Europe, not to exclude, threaten or reduce the influence of specific states.

11. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Over the past few years we have looked to the OSCE as an important forum in the creation of a foundation for further Security co-operation in Europe. Experience has shown us that this work is more complicated than it appears at first sight. The discussions taking place in the OSCE on the definition of a new security model for the next century have recently begun, but there are possibilities for their further development. We should not underestimate the work being carried out nor the commitments resting on the Member States based on OSCE Documents.

12. The Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is another important element in the promotion of security in Europe. Through their membership in the Council, the states of Central and Eastern Europe have undertaken commitments in the areas of human rights and democracy. The Council of Europe is responsible for monitoring performance and it is therefore an important tool of democracy and human rights in Europe. To be sure, opinion is divided on the membership of states like Russia in the Council of Europe, but in the political reality of Europe today no state can be excluded. All available opportunities must be seized to effect changes in the former Communist States. It is impossible to stand by and do nothing.

13. Russia

Effective and constructive participation on the part of Russia is essential for further security co-operation. At the present time it is difficult to assess with any certainty what their policy is as regards European security. Russia is now engaged in a difficult election campaign which affects their position. Russia's foreign policy is as yet somewhat inflexible, as can be seen from their opposition to the enlargement of NATO and their policy with respect to their neighbouring countries. It is difficult to anticipate what the future holds in store, but it should be quite clear to Russia that we and other Western allies are determined to support their constructive participation in the international forum. Co-operation must be based on reciprocity and good will on all sides.

14. Peacekeeping and Economic Reconstruction in Bosnia

The peacekeeping effort in Bosnia is an example of how states which were previously antagonists can work together. They are combining their efforts to rebuild Bosnia from the ashes after the conflict and making it possible for Bosnia to take its place among the independent states of Europe. A rebuilding effort of this magnitude has not been mounted since Europe was resurrected from the rubble left by World War II. Iceland has decided to contribute one hundred and ten million kronas to the rebuilding effort, a sum comparable proportionally to the contributions of other countries.

In the past it has become even clearer that it is the might of NATO which primarily secured the delicate peace agreement reached by the parties. In Bosnia, Icelanders have for the first time participated in a NATO military peacekeeping operation; the Icelandic medical team in Bosnia pertains to the NATO forces Although this contribution may not appear to be extensive, it has attracted deserved attention and is an indication of the solidarity among the nations of the Alliance and other nations forming the International Peacekeeping Forces (IFOR).

15. The Defence Co-operation and Relations with the United States

A new five-year agreement between the government of Iceland and the United States on the implementation of an agreed minute on the Defence Treaty reflects the realistic assessment by both countries of the situation, and the adaptation of the naval base to this reality. There is reason to express special pleasure at the extended term of the agreement this time, which ensures stability and successful defence co-operation between the countries into the next century. This is more important than ever while the changes in the security and defence situation are changing so rapidly.

The defence capability will remain at the level decided in the minute signed by the two governments in 1994. This means, among other things, that there will never be fewer than four combat aircraft positioned in Iceland. It is confirmed that the operation of the helicopter rescue unit of the defence forces will remain unchanged and it will provide the same services as before. The agreement also covers the adaptation of the contracting system to the altered circumstances. The exclusive rights of Iceland Prime Contractor to contracting for the defence forces will be terminated in 2004.

The defence treaty with the United States and Iceland's participation the defence co-operation of Western nations will remain the cornerstone of Iceland's Security policy. The co-operation with the United States in many ways lends Iceland a special position among the European countries and underscores the importance of the Transatlantic link. When looking to the future it is important to bear in mind our experience of security relations with the United States over half a century. It is safe to say that the co-operation has been successful and served the interests of both countries and our NATO allies. The new agreed minute calls for close political consultation with the US. It is to be hoped that this possibility will be utilised to the fullest for regular exchanges of views with our most powerful ally.

16. The Trans-Atlantic Initiative of the US and the EU

Last December ministers and officials from the US and the EU met in Madrid and launched the so-called Atlantic initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to breathe new life into the relations across the Atlantic and establish an extensive co-operation between the United States and the countries of the European Union in the areas of foreign and trade policy. Their goal is to work toward closer co-operation between Europe and America in order to promote international trade and strengthen the global trade system under the World Trade Organisation. The initiative also calls for the reinforcement of bilateral relations between the United States and the EU countries, e.g. between traders, scientists and academics. If this co-operation continues in an effective manner it is important for Iceland to be included, and I will emphasise this both to the United States and to the European Union.

So far, I have outlined the situation regarding various direct Icelandic interests in the Northern Region and in North America, which are tangible due to proximity, kinship or organisational relations. We must face the fact, however, that our world has changed. Problems that previously appeared distant and hardly relevant to Iceland now have an increasing impact on our lives and our prospects. This presents both new dangers and new possibilities. At the same time we have a moral obligation to take an interest in the affairs of our fellow humans in other parts of the world.

17. The World Trade Organisation

Trade in fisheries products is largely free in the main Western markets, but there are still obstacles in the growing market areas in Asia This must be addressed in further discussions within the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The first Ministerial meeting of the WTO will be held in Singapore in October when work will proceed on the programme of the organisation for the next few years. Although there is some pressure on increased liberalisation of trade in agricultural products and textiles, it is not considered likely that a formal round of discussions on the matter will begin until 1998 at the earliest.

Almost thirty states are now waiting for admission to the WTO, including Russia and China. It is important to expedite their entrance to the extent possible. Through the World Trade Organisation, the position of developing countries will be strengthened, as opening markets is the most efficient development aid. However, the developing countries have expressed concern over ideas of linking employment legislation and competition laws to market access, as they feel that this could lead to increased trade barriers against their products.

In the World Trade Organisation attention is already being focused on future projects, the chief of which concerns the linking of trade and the environment and the drawing up of an investment agreement. Iceland has participated actively in a committee of the OECD which has been working toward such an agreement, and it is to be hoped that the agreement will facilitate investments between countries and thus promote trade.

18. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - OECD

Co-operation in the fields of economy, trade and public finances comprises the most extensive work within the OECD but there are also other activities in monetary, industrial, fisheries and agricultural matters. Studies conducted on agriculture, science, the environment, health and education in Iceland have been useful tools in domestic decision making and policymaking. Other projects which have benefited Iceland include the co-operation of OECD with the Ministry of Finance, which is engaged in the improvement and reorganisation of public administration. Iceland's participation in the OECD has been growing over the past years and most of the ministries, as well as the National Economic Institute and the Central Bank, now participate directly in the work of the Organisation.

19. Export Trade

The policy statement of the government emphasises the need to combine the forces of government institutions and organisations which in one way or another are involved in exports. The steps already taken in this direction are promising. The co-operation of the Foreign Ministry and the Trade Council has been increased. The purpose of the co-operation is to utilise the influence and connections of the Ministry all over the world and link them with the knowledge and contacts that the Trade Council has in the Icelandic business community. The adaptation of the government to the changed emphasis in world trade will take time, as personnel will have to be trained and the areas will have to be identified where the government and its institutions can be of the most use.

The internationalisation of companies in Iceland and the increased emphasis on the entrance of the Icelandic business community into the hard competition of international trade is of ever-increasing importance to the Icelandic economy. It is admirable how quickly Icelandic companies have adapted to the altered situation, especially in the fishing industry. The fishing industry has led the internationalisation of the business economy and the present government is determined to support this development.

It is important to combine our diffuse forces in the area of international trade. This calls for extensive consultation by all parties which have an interest in exports. It must be in Iceland's interests to have a complete overview of the whole situation in one place.

Emphasis will be placed on implementing the changes needed in the Foreign Ministry which will ensure this overview and the Ministry's capabilities to support Icelandic trade abroad.

20. Measures to Promote Exports

If the Government and the private sector join forces, doors may be opened which might otherwise remain closed. Work is being conducted in the Foreign Ministry on measures to promote exports in co-operation with the Icelandic industries. An example of this is the visit of a trade delegation to Murmansk on the initiative of the Foreign Ministry and the Trade Council. Almost twenty companies were represented in this delegation which opened the eyes of Russian government officials and companies to the possibilities offered by Icelandic companies in the fishing industry. There are now clear signs that trade between Icelandic and Russian companies has leapt forward. Last December, a trade delegation under the same leadership visited South Africa and Namibia, and the results were fully up to expectations.

At the beginning of April, a delegation led by officials of the Foreign Ministry visited Pakistan following a request from Iceland's honorary consul in that country for an examination of the possibility of co-operation in the fishing industry. The delegation consisted of representatives of the Trade Council, the Fisheries Development Fund and the Fisheries Technology Forum. The results of this visit will be outlined to the Icelandic Fisheries Companies over the next few weeks. There are plans for an official visit to Korea next August. The plan is to include in the delegation export companies, representatives of the tourist industry, experts in the field of investment promotion as well as companies which are involved in imports from Korea. This could turn out to be the most extensive business visit arranged by the Foreign Ministry to date.

21. Icelandic Investment abroad

The discussion of measures to promote exports cannot be concluded without some mention of Icelandic investments abroad. There has been some criticism that it is irresponsible to promote Icelandic investment abroad in light of the small foreign investment in Iceland. The investments that Icelandic fisheries companies have made abroad have resulted in great returns for the Icelandic economy. Icelandic companies operated abroad with Icelanders in executive positions utilise Icelandic know-how, technology and innovations. At the end of last year a committee was established of representatives from the Ministries for Industry, Trade and Fisheries as well as the Industrial Development Fund and the Fisheries Development fund in order to conduct a study and return suggestions on how the government can support the investment of Icelandic companies abroad.

22. The Law of the Sea

It has been a busy year for matters of the Law of the Sea and success has been achieved in various areas. The first to deserve mention is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which took effect following amendment of the section on mining for metals on the seabed which had been the subject of dispute. The Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was concluded last August with the adoption of a binding international agreement which provides a framework for cooperation between countries on protection and regulation of fisheries from migrating and straddling fish stocks. Within the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, a codex was adopted last fall on responsible fisheries. The work of the North-Atlantic Marine Mammal Conservation Organization has increased and this could be to the benefit of Iceland in the matter of whaling.

Iceland's position with regard to the Law of the Sea is based on the reality that Icelanders are heavily dependent on fisheries. It is also the firm opinion of the Icelandic government that the states which have the greatest interests in the utilization of marine resources are best entrusted with their conservation and with the regulation of fisheries.

23. Fisheries negotiations

It is well known that the Icelandic government has been engaged in discussions in the recent past with neighbouring countries on the regulation of fisheries of individual fish stocks. An agreement was reached at a meeting of the Northeast-Atlantic Fisheries Committee (NEAFC) on the division of fishing quotas this year from the oceanic redfish stock on Reykjanes Ridge. The total quota will be 153,000 tons of which Iceland's share will be 45,000 tons, which is acceptable. The result of the NEAFC meeting is important and reinforces the belief in the Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and the hopes that its provisions will promote the settlement of disputes on deep-sea fishing. It is unfortunate, of course, that Russia has announced its intention to contest the decision of the meeting, but it his hoped that they will show responsibility in their fishing of oceanic redfish this year.

This conclusion has been an incentive to continue discussions on cod fishing in the Barents Sea and on the utilization on the Norwegian-Icelandic herring stock and find solutions to these disputes.

Discussions have been held between the four coastal states, Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, Norway and Russia, as well as the EU, on the regulation of fishing from the Norwegian-Icelandic Herring stock. Everyone is aware of the importance of reaching an agreement and preventing the total catch from exceeding one million tons. In order for this to happen, all parties will have to reduce their demands. The Government of Iceland has declared its willingness to do so if the other parties do the same.

I think in the rules which now govern the relations between countries in these matters, as in other matters, one common denominator may be found: the principle of fairness. Fairness, is of course, a flexible term and parties to disputes will normally have different views on what constitutes fairness. In my view, fairness is taking account combined interests of all concerned. I would like to express the view, regardless of Iceland's position and argument in the negotiations, that it is fairly clear to everyone what constitutes a fair solution. Iceland has been guided by the principle of fairness, and assumes that others will do so as well.

24. Iceland in the United Nations

Participation in the work of the United Nations and its institutions gives Iceland the opportunity to promote peace and justice in the world and, at the same time, to promote the basic interests of Iceland in issues such as the Law of the Sea and environmental protection. It is important for Iceland's voice to be heard in the UN. It is now clear that the scope of the Nordic countries for a common position is more restricted than before due to the membership of three Nordic countries in the European Union. It would be a mistake, however, to maintain that Nordic cooperation in the United Nations and in international affairs is in dire straits even though the permanent representatives give fewer joint statements. Nordic cooperation is more than joint statements and it continues on a broad base.

In the United Nations it is most important for Iceland to set goals in the issues where Iceland has interests and to pursue those goals with perseverance. This has been done in environmental matters through Iceland's membership in the Commission on Sustainable Development and in our struggle against the pollution of the oceans. The same applies to the Law of the Sea and Iceland's candidature for the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. Finally, geothermal and energy matters through the activities of the Geothermal Training Programme deserve mention and last but not least fisheries; there is every indication that the Fisheries Training Programme of the United Nations will start work in this country next year. In this context, it is also worth mentioning Iceland's candidature for the powerful Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Preparations are now under way for Iceland's work at the next General Assembly. With this in mind, formal cooperation has been established between the Foreign Ministry and other ministries on the issues to be discussed at the Assembly through the establishment of a special group of contact persons on UN affairs in the Government. It is necessary for Iceland to react to the altered situation at the General Assembly by making its own statements. I hope that the Government will take this matter seriously in hand and join their forces with the Foreign Ministry to work toward the promotion of our interests in the United Nations.

Our participation in the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul is now in preparation. In connection with the Conference, a report to the Conference will be published on the state of settlement in Iceland. Preparations are also under way for participation in the World Food Summit in Rome in November under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. At this summit attention must be focused on the importance of the biological resources of the sea for the supply of food for Mankind in the future.

25. Environment and Energy

In the United Nations Framework Convention on Climactic Change the Member States commit themselves to reduce the emissions of various gasses, and the Icelandic Government has recently returned its report on this subject to the United Nations. Among the measures planned by other countries is a special tax on fuel. This development will have the result of increasing demand for renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric and geothermal power and improve Iceland's competitive position in the future.

Iceland should make its voice heard in energy matters in the forum of the United Nations. One option is to seek a seat on ECOSOC's Committee on New and Renewable Energy Sources; participation in this committee could have great significance in connection with the idea of a United Nations Conference on these issues in 2001.

26. United Nations Reforms

Great reforms are now in progress in the United Nations to make the organization more capable of addressing the extensive issues it is charged with. In cooperation with the other Nordic countries, Iceland has presented ideas on changes in the organization of the Security Council with the purpose of making the Council more effective. It is also necessary to find a solution to the serious financial problems of the organization. A few Western states have urged radical reforms in the United Nations and even criticized the work of the organization harshly. There can be no doubt about the support of Iceland for the United Nations, but Iceland must support austerity to the extent possible; it is our goal to make the organization effective and powerful. At the same time it should be emphasized that it is unacceptable that some member states do not pay their dues.

27. Development

The connection between development and peace is now clear to most people, and this is one of the main tasks of the United Nations in their programmes for peace and development. Many mistakes have been made with regard to development aid. Unconditional aid to some third-world countries often had little effect and was misused, and in addition the Cold War was fought in this arena as in others. The Western Countries, including Iceland will have to establish principles with regard to development aid. First and foremost, it must contribute to permanent development and help its recipients to stand on their own feet.

In the regions of the world where the social structure has collapsed due to armed conflict, economic development has been one of the main conditions for bringing about peace. It has proven necessary to contribute funds to economic reconstruction in these areas. Iceland has contributed its share and cooperated with the Nordic countries on reconstruction in the territories of Palestinian Arabs.

The Icelandic International Development Agency is carrying out projects in Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi and in the Cape Verde Islands. The Agency concentrates on the one hand on research on the developing countries' fish stocks and the marine biosphere and on the other on instruction and training in fisheries.

28. Human Rights

The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights says in its preamble: "Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

Thus, human rights are unconditional and violations of human rights are not the private affair of the countries who permit them. It is our duty, therefore, to fight for human rights and to make other counties aware of our views. Human rights cannot be separated from other aspects of international relations. We must therefore take human rights issues into account in our dealings with other countries.

29. Disarmament

The participation of an unarmed nation in international disarmament work may seem odd, but the fact is that it is impossible to stand aside when the security of the entire world is at stake. This year, Iceland was granted associate membership of the United Nations Disarmament Conference in Geneva. The Conference is now working toward an agreement on a nuclear test ban. After France ceased all testing, the prospects of success have improved. Hopefully, other nations will follow this example.

Iceland has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was a result of the work of the Disarmament Conference. A parliamentary recommendation on its ratification will be placed before the Althingi in due course.

Iceland has supported the efforts of the International Red Cross and the United Nations to ban land mines, one of the greatest dangers in the daily life in many developing countries. In the Human Rights Council attempts have been made to support those who are trying through international agreements to prevent the participation of children under 18 years of age in armed conflict. Through participation in international disarmament agreements Iceland contributes to this important issue which affects the welfare of all Mankind.

The accomplishments over the past few years in the field of disarmament agreements, such as the Agreement on Conventional Forces in Europe and the agreements between the superpowers on nuclear arms reductions, show that the route of negotiation is the correct route. Unilateral measures and declarations make little difference.

30. Culture and Information

Iceland's foreign policy is not determined solely by tangible goals in the field of politics, security and trade. It is no coincidence that legislation governing the Icelandic Foreign Service provides that the Foreign Service is also responsible for Iceland's cultural interests. Culture is so intertwined with other aspects of relations between countries that it cannot be separated. An independent nation is bound to foster and promote its cultural heritage. By so doing, a nation earns a place for itself in the international community, strengthens its image, promotes relations with other countries and advances the cause of its interests.

Every diplomatic representative of Iceland abroad has also been the cultural representative of his country, even when this work has been carried out without fanfare. A working party formed in cooperation with the Ministry for Education to conduct a study of cultural promotion abroad has concluded its work and returned its recommendations on the increase of this work. In continuation of this work, a special cultural and information bureau in the Foreign Ministry under the direction of an experienced diplomat is under consideration.

Mr. President,

Geographical isolation no longer prevents us from participating actively in international cooperation, whether in the field of trade or politics. Decisions taken in international fora directly affect our daily lives in this country and therefore it is our duty to participate actively and ambitiously in the international work that affects Iceland, its position and possibilities for future development in the community of nations.

International cooperation is necessary to ensure our existence as an independent nation and to attain our goals, whether in our region or in the world. Thus, foreign affairs cannot be separated from other political discourse in Iceland since their influence on individuals and our industries is greater than ever before.

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